EU-Egypt: Catherine Ashton’s useful but indecisive mediation

30 July 2013 – Presseurop Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, succeeded in meeting Mohamed Morsi on July 30. She thus became the first person who is not a member of the Egyptian military to meet the former Egyptian president since his impeachment and detention at an undisclosed location on July 3.

The meeting was the climax of what Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung describes as “a good mediator’s visit”.

In the Egypt since July 28, Europe’s diplomatic chief also met with Egyptian President Adli Mansour, Vice-President Mohamed El-Baradei and the leader of the country’s military Abdelfatah Khalil al-Sisi, as well as representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. ”She is currently the only foreign mediator to have access to all of the political forces in the country,” notes FAZ. The newspaper continues —

The European Union is not often called on to provide diplomatic assistance in such a full-blown crisis, but that is the case in Egypt. In answer to a request from the country’s transitional government and other states in the region, [...] Catherine Ashton travelled to Cairo to offer her services to the parties in the conflict. On a previous recent visit to the Egyptian capital she had already succeeded in talking to the Muslim Brotherhood — something that the Americans had not managed to do.

Talking to all of the groups participating in the country’s political transition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, has been the EU’s general policy since the military coup in Egypt, explains the daily, which points out, however, that the Union must content itself with words, given that it lacks the means to exert more concrete pressure —

It provides generous financial assistance to Egypt, €5bn in loans and aid in 2012 and 2013 alone, but it does not usually make use of this to obtain leverage in political quarrels. The money serves to fund support for human rights, democracy, education and the development of the country.

It is for this reason that European diplomats do not consider Catherine Ashton’s visit to be “an official attempt to act as a mediator,” points out FAZ, which notes that the EU wants to avoid giving the impression that outside forces are interfering with the internal affairs of the country.

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